"ALL good Catholics have long felt . . ." "Most Catholics are deeply upset by the constant noise at Mass today . . ." "Catholic parents are shocked by what is going on in
Catholic schools today . " "I am sure no Catholic would want to confess to a married priest!"
These are just some of the statements which we Catholics make and hear every day. Your correspondence columns are packed with definitive opinions to the extreme Right or the extreme Left which all good (or
intelligent) Catholics are alleged, with the utmost dogmatism, to hold.
But the sad fact is that no one really knows what "all" or "most," or even "some" Catholics really think. We have AS yet no representative House of Laity and few elected parish councils: even if we had it would be necessary to admit that these usually represent only the views of the interested
(or pushful) minority.
Yet the Church does include many thousands of men and women in the pew, and what they think or want must be significant.
If, in fact, thousands of silent Catholics are growing doubtful of the value of Catholic education it is vital for the authorities to know it, or in a few years they might quietly start sending their children to local State schools in preference and precipitate a chaotic situation in the schools of this country.
Would people fed the same about married priests? The vocal fringe minority scream "Yes" or "No" according to their particular speciality,. but the vast mass of Catholics is silent as usual.
Surely it is simply vital for the Church planning authorities to try continually by modern scientific means—and this certainly means normal social surveys — to find out what the ordinary Mass-going Catholic feels on a number of key issues, such as the liturgy, the priesthood, education and certain difficult moral issues.
By and large people can be organised and led only with their overall consent; so should it appear that enormous numbers of people are not accepting what has long been the Church's doctrine, obviously some deep thought, ex planation, improved instruction and even searching into the basis of the belief is deeply necessary.
The Church, to use a current phrase, suffers deeply from a lack of "feedback" on almost every issue. This might not have mattered once, but, now that the views of ordinary people are taken into careful account by governments, mass media, and all types of marketing organisations, it is obviously part of normal modern existence.
Unless the Church wishes to remain totally isolated from the views and feelings of ordinary people, is it not time that she considered using those methods of modern research which might be so deeply usefth in planning future policy?
In the matter of schools and new churches it is vital — do people want a particular type of building, or do they see it as a grandiose waste of money? if they are not happy they will not give generously.
Do people prefer multipurpose buildings for churches, or shared ones? Surveys to find out this type of answer might save enormous sums.
In addition to knowing what most people wanted, there is the added virtue that they would feet consulted, that they would know (even if they had not personally liked the proposal) that most people did, for we are accustomed to accepting the majority vote.
We are not even sure whether, in fact, Catholic schools produce more practising Catholics than do State ones. It seems that we are convinced of the truth of this theory and unwilling to seek or find evidence which might show to the contrary.
Before any more money is Spent on schools, new churches or the training of priests, a considerable number of scientific social surveys of the type widely accepted by the experts in this field should be conducted to let us (and our leaders) know just what "good Catholics" or "intelligent Catholics" or "unhappy Catholics" really do think, and just how many of them there are. It might produce some surprises, but surely of great importance?
(Mrs.) Monica Comerford Merrow, Guildford, Surrey.